WARREN, New Jersey — The Weeknd is famous for his singing, songwriting and producing career. He was the halftime performer for the 2021 Super Bowl and won a Grammy for his song “Earned It.” What many don’t know about The Weeknd, however, is that he is a philanthropist and quietly donates to several global poverty relief organizations.
Much of The Weeknd’s philanthropy ties back to his cultural roots. Born Abel Tesfaye in Canada, The Weeknd’s parents are Ethiopian immigrants. Although Tesfaye grew up in Toronto, Canada, “his first language was Amharic,” one of the two main languages of Ethiopia.
Donations to Ethiopia
A significant portion of The Weeknd’s philanthropy goes toward his parents’ home country of Ethiopia. In April 2021, he donated $1 million to the United Nations World Food Programme, enough to provide two million meals in Ethiopia. These meals will benefit people in the northern Tigray region, which is rocked by ongoing ethnic conflict. Civilians suffer the most from the conflict. Many live in poor conditions and risk rape, violence and death. Additionally, he encouraged his fans who are able to donate.
The Weeknd announced his donation in an Instagram post that read, “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction.”
Before The Weeknd’s donation, the World Food Programme had “provided corn, rice and vegetable oil to 60,000 people” in the northern Tigray region. It had also delivered food to Tigray’s two accessible refugee camps. It had also begun an initiative to support “pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as children in the region.” The program intended to reach 875,000 people.
Donations to Lebanon
The Weeknd’s philanthropy extends beyond Ethiopia. He donated to COVID-19 relief as well as relief for those affected by the 2020 Beirut explosion. Following the explosion, The Weeknd “donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon.” The explosion injured more than 5,000 people and killed 218. It damaged not only homes and infrastructure but also the city’s main hospital as well as other clinics, making it difficult to treat victims. Since the explosion occurred at the city’s port, it damaged Beirut’s ability to trade and receive imports.
Lebanon’s poverty rate jumped from 33% to 45% from September 2019 to August 2020 as a result of the pandemic and the explosion. Global Aid for Lebanon raised more than $1.2 million to provide food, treatment and shelter aid to those affected by the explosion.
The Weeknd’s Quiet Philanthropy
In June, the Weeknd also donated “$200,000 each to Black Lives Matter and the Colin Kaepernick Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative; $100,000 to National Bail Out; and $500,000 each to the MusiCares Covid-19 Relief Fund and to frontline health workers at Scarborough Health Network, the healthcare network in his Ontario hometown.”
The Weeknd’s philanthropy has provided many with needed help amid unsafe conditions. While he is a quiet philanthropist, he is consistent in helping vulnerable people and making donations to alleviate global poverty.
– Sana Mamtaney